The Retrospective

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Local Natives’ New Release, Gorilla Manor

December 29th, 2009 by

Local Natives

It was like falling in love.

Correction: it was falling in love with swirling three part harmonies, meditative percussion, dreamy, thoughtful guitar riffs that echo sirens’ calls, and sparkling lyrics recalling a fleeting, enchanted youth that clings to the collective consciousness of 20-somethings everywhere. Just one listen to Local Natives’ “Cards and Quarters” off of their Gorilla Manor debut brought on the infatuation that, weeks later, shows no sign of flagging. I’m hooked, so are thousands of tasteful British citizens, and when the new album drops, you could be, too. Introducing your new favorite band, Local Natives.

When the Silver Lake group trekked to 2009’s SXSW, they were virtually unknown. Four days and nine shows later, however, the world had changed: they’d garnered serious props from British media, scooped a passel of breathless fans, and secured what would be a wildly successful UK mini-tour, the close of which saw them welcomed into the fold by British Indie Label, Infectious. Though they received overseas backing first, upon their return the California quintet was courted by a variety of American Indie labels. Now, Local Natives’ first full-length album, Gorilla Manor, is due out in the States this spring under Frenchkiss. Based on the boundlessly good debut we were sent for review, at The Retrospective we’re expecting big things from these guys, things of King Kong-like proportions.

Gorilla Manor CD Cover

“Wide Eyes”, the first single off of Gorilla Manor, rocks with a mesmerizing, meditative beat reminiscent of Cursive’s early days. Twangy guitar work conjures images of the American West and driving through hot patches of shimmering highway heat with scrub brush whizzing past. This song is a gorgeous example of medium tailored perfectly to subject; the searching, forward-clattering rhythm has a measured intensity that makes the lyrical invocation of evil spirits and the questions raised about heaven and earth especially plangent. Musically, “Wide Eyes” is a blend of grounded, terrestrial indie rock and more ethereal experimental elements that create a sound that belongs up in some higher musical sphere with spirits anything but evil.

Local Natives – Wide Eyes

Local Natives – Cubism Dream

The balance of the album’s eleven tracks slides between haunting, mesmerizing arrangements as in “Wide Eyes” and “Cards and Quarters” and earnest, sunny-suburban-neighborhood sorts of tunes, as in “Who Knows Who Cares?” This track in particular sports a purity and vocal earnestness that underscores the fact that bands with real vocal talent are back, and Local Natives are set to take their place at the very top of the roster. “Cubism Dream” has a sleepy, just-waking-up-with-a-smile-on-your-face feel that belies serious, sad lyrics explaining the mysterious disintegration of a long-distance relationship maintained over the internet.* Here and at numerous other moments throughout the album, Local Natives show themselves to be masters of cannily juxtaposing cutting lyrics and pretty music to express the most bittersweet aspects of the human experience. Throughout Gorilla Manor, the band summons seemingly quotidian images via swirling, angelic harmonies to place them over a backdrop of symphonic instrumentals, transforming each song into a musical experience that affects listeners down to the very bones.

Psychedelic influences and occasional melancholy aside, the abiding overtones of Gorilla Manor are warmth and a coastal kind of comfort that feels as right to the ear and heart as the human heartbeat. Local Natives’ album would make as much sense shelved beside Final Fantasy’s as it would by any Arcade Fire endeavor. While they share some definite similarities with recent it-bands Grizzly Bear and Yeasayer, and even dabble in arty Spencer Krug-style screaming, Local Natives stand firmly on their own, certain to be welcome into any territory they call home. Check them out on their Spring European tour and if you’re heading to the Madrid show as The Retrospective will be, leave some love and let us know who to look for.

*this is the author’s humble interpretation of what’s going on in “Cubism Dream” and she makes no claim whatsoever for its veracity.

LA Times article
Local natives Myspace
Local Natives official website

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